Social Media: Communication the Modern Way
By Angela Altass
It is 2021 and we spend more time looking at and connecting with each other through our various devices than we do in person, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to force us into varying degrees of social distancing.
“Generally speaking, a digital footprint is recommended for any business,” says Melissa Martin, owner, Halfsquare Designs, www.halfsquaredesigns.ca. “Specifically, as for a convenience store, it may be an opportunity to diversify from the traditional format with, for example, online orders for home delivery. But, without a firm cadence of five or more posts per week, it’s probably not going to yield the results you are looking for.”
Whether you operate a business or not, it is difficult to ignore the role social media plays in our lives and its impact on our day-to-day work and lifestyle choices. It’s necessary to be on top of your social media game, and that includes knowing who all the players are, which means more than a quick occasional post on your Facebook page.
“In today’s world, I think social media is more important than your website,” says Stephen Heckbert, professor, public relations program, Algonquin College, “and, most importantly, make sure you are engaging on social media sites you may not consider as such. In other words, check your Yelp, Trip Advisor and Google reviews as much, or more, than your Instagram. Your website, if you have one, will invariably be fairly static, so try to ensure you’re giving yourself time to update it and your social media channels.”
Heckbert lists the following social media platforms in order of most suitable for use by convenience stores:
- “Facebook – This is the big one for a reason: It’s likely home to your target market, unless your target market is in high school, in which case,
- Instagram: Be more visual on Instagram. Words are not your friends here. Also, if it’s high schoolers you’re targeting,
- TikTok: Figure out how to make your convenience store a dance haven.”
As for monitoring social media, make sure you follow Facebook, Google, Yelp, Kijiji and other sites for mentions of you. This is more of a monitoring activity but it has to be done. I promise, people have said things about you online you might not have seen yet, so make sure you’re listening on social media.”
Martin agrees that Facebook is the key site for reaching Gen X and older.
While it can seem somewhat of a daunting task if you are not used to it, managing your online presence is something that you can do yourself but it’s important to realize that it’s not free, says Heckbert.
“You can do it on your own, absolutely, but, first and foremost, make sure you’ve thought about what you want to be known for,” he says. “If you know what you want your brand to be, fast and convenient or friendly and welcoming, then either you or someone else can manage your social presence. But, make sure your brand positioning is the same online as it is in person. Also, and this is the most important point, it’s not free. At a minimum, it will take time and energy, and you have to understand what you’re spending that time and energy on.”
Martin agrees that managing your online presence is something you can probably do on your own to start but you might want to consider getting help when the volume grows and justifies hiring a company or person to look after it for you. Martin also says to be sure to determine clear objectives before you begin.
You already have an online presence, whether you think you do or not, states Heckbert.
“You are on Google somehow, so it’s better for you to be in control of your story than to surrender it to someone else,” he advises. “Think about who you want to be online and in person and then build to that goal. If you want your brand to be fun, then be prepared to have fun yourself. If you want your brand to be fast and convenient, don’t be text-heavy in your messages.”
Heckbert cautions about keeping your online content on point.
“Make sure you’re posting about what’s important to you in your role as a store owner,” he advises. “You may have personal opinions about a wide variety of topics but unless you think it’s important for your store to share your exact views, you may want your store’s social media to focus on more universal ideas, like: these new crunchy potato chips really are the crunchiest ever!”
Heckbert says there is no universal answer to what consumers expect from a store’s website or social media accounts, except for consistency.
“They are expecting consistency,” he states. “If you say you’re going to post frequently, and you don’t, then I’m out. If you say you’re going to advertise what’s on special and you don’t, I’m out. If you promise special deals to followers, and you don’t have any, I’m out. So, be consistent.”
Martin adds that customers are looking for informative and entertaining/engaging content on social media.
Heckbert’s final words of advice: “Good luck. The best part of the online world is there are no right answers.”